Nasser Al-Attiyah, with six stage wins to his name last year, is a serious contender for the 44th Dakar. The Toyota driver dispelled any doubts from the get-go, beathing Carlos Sainz and his hybrid Audi by a slim margin of 12 seconds. Henk Lategan and Brian Baragwanath are tied in third and fourth place, respectively, while Sébastien Loeb drove his Hunter T1+ into fifth place. Stéphane Peterhansel is further adrift, sitting in 14th place, behind Lucio Álvarez, after conceding over 1'12' to Al-Attiyah in 19 km of racing.
Recruited by BRX as its third driver, along with Nani Roma and Sébastien Loeb, Orlando Terranova has entered his 17th Dakar at the wheel of the new Hunter T1+. The Argentinian is 11th overall after stage 1A, tied with Russian Vladimir Vasilyev (BMW).
One of the other South African car drivers is Giniel De Villiers, currently sitting in eighth place. The 2009 champion has won at least one stage in three of the four preceding editions, but he almost had to sit this one out after he tested positive for COVID-19 days before he was scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia. Fortunately, a second test came back negative and he was able to make it to Jeddah in time for the start.
Nasser Al-Attiyah leads the car standings. The Qatari, who had the opening special done and dusted in just under 11 minutes, beat Carlos Sainz and South Africans Henk Lategan and Brian Baragwanath, both of whom finished on the podium after several stages last year before their stroke of bad luck. Sébastien Loeb rounds out the top 5 as Yazeed Al-Rajhi sits sixth overall in the third Toyota in the classification. Meanwhile, Stéphane Peterhansel is fourteenth for the time being, sandwiched between Lucio Álvarez's Toyota and the third Audi RS Q e-tron, in the hands of Mattias Ekström.